If you had only one week to hunt, would you hunt the rut, pre-rut or early season?
QUESTION: I live in Central Alabama and have always hunted around the week of Jan. 15, but it is always the week of the full moon and is a tough week to hunt. What is the best week? — Marvin W.
ANSWER: I’ll give you an answer, but it may not be what you want to hear.
First, timing of the full moon varies from year to year. For instance, January full moon dates for the last five years are as follows: Jan. 30, 2010; Jan. 11, 2011; Jan. 9, 2012; Jan. 27, 2013; Jan. 16, 2014. For the next five years: Jan. 20, 2015; Jan. 24, 2016; Jan. 12, 2017; Jan. 31, 2018; Jan. 21, 2019.
Second, we don’t really know how moon phase influences deer movement. Several researchers found no correlation whatsoever, concluding moon phase has no effect. A more recent study found a very subtle effect. Peak movement occurred near dusk in all phases except the new moon, when movement rate peaked near dawn and, as a result, lasted a little longer into the early morning.
There was little effect during the first quarter, but mid-morning movement rates were highest during the non-quarter periods. Although still relatively low, mid-day movement tended to be greatest during the full moon, and late afternoon activity peaked during the last quarter.
That’s the scientific side, and being a biologist I tend to consider it fairly credible. However, I’m also a deer hunter and in nearly 40 years of deer hunting I have observed unequivocally that daytime deer movement declines during the full moon.
The third issue is how the full moon influences the rut. More research, both scientific and non-scientific has been done on that. Without exception, biologists agree the rut occurs at the same time every year, although specific rut dates vary from one location to another. That pretty much precludes any influence by the moon phase. You just have to figure out when peak rut occurs in the area you hunt.
Lastly, does it matter? Some folks prefer to hunt peak rut (as opposed to peak breeding) because of the increased daytime buck movement. Others prefer the predictability of pre-rut. You might see more deer during peak rut, but it’s harder to predict where, or which deer you might see. Prior to that they’re more predictable in terms of both time and place.